That Contemptible Oath

On Friday, April 28th, the Democratic Parties of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County held a firehouse primary to determine the Democratic nominee for the 26th district House of Delegates seat.  The two choices were Cathy Copeland and Brent Finnegan.  Although I met first Ms. Copeland at her announcement, I’ve known Brent many years.  Facebook tells me we’ve been friends since 2010.

Unlike a traditional primary, a firehouse primary has fewer polling locations (there were two, one in Harrisonburg and one in Rockingham County).  In addition, the process is run by the party and not the state.  However, unlike a convention or some caucuses, the primary is held in public facilities and is open to the general public, not simply party members.

When I first learned about this contest, I was interested in learning more about both of the candidates and their positions.  After all, I would want the candidate I agreed with most to win this primary, in the same way, I would want the candidate who most was in line with my positions to win the general election.  However, when I discovered that the Democratic Party would require each voter in the primary to sign a loyalty oath, I lost interest in the process.  I was told that each participant in the 26th district Democratic primary would be required to sign an oath to agree to support whoever won the primary regardless of who he or she was or what he or she may stand for.

It reminded me a bit of the 2014 Republican Party of Virginia Convention.  As someone who attended the previous three conventions, I looked forward to the one taking place that year.  Although I had been expelled from the party months before I was told I could still participate.  However, I was dismayed to discover that each attendee was required to sign a loyalty oath to support all of the Republican candidates in the following general election.  As I was running for local office, I could not honorably sign a document pledging support to my Republican opponents.

Although I didn’t vote, I stood outside of the polling place for several hours on Friday in order to collect signatures for Cliff Hyra, a fellow seeking the Libertarian nomination for governor.  I overheard Kai Degner, a former Democratic city council member, wondering if I would sign the pledge.  While there, I ran into my first college professor.  She taught Intro to International Relations at JMU which I took while a student in high school.  However, she came back out of the building after waiting in line for some time stating that she didn’t cast a ballot as she refused to sign a document automatically pledging her support to whomever won the primary.  I spoke to one candidate, Mr. Finnegan, about the matter, and he said he wished that instead voters were asked to state their support the principles of the Democratic Party rather than their wholesale support of their candidate.

For a party who prides itself for sticking up for the rights of the poor, marginalized, and those discriminated against, the idea of a loyalty oath ought to be repugnant to both rank and file Democrats and independents.  In addition, the thing is completely and legally unenforceable so what purpose does it serve other than trying to guilt trip voters into supporting candidates they might not otherwise vote for simply because they wish to express their opinions?  Should such a thing even be legal given that the primary was held in a public place, inside Harrisonburg’s City Hall?  I wonder how many people who planned to vote in Friday’s contest, like my former professor, were turned away for refusing to sign a loyalty oath to the Democratic Party and her candidates? My advice to the local Democrats is, don’t hold your party nomination contest in a public place and invite the public to attend if you are planning to make voters sign a pledge to support you in the process.  Not only is it bad public relations, it is also an insult to the principles of political freedom.

Lastly, congrats to Brent Finnegan for winning the primary.  Unless another candidate enters the race, the choices for the voters of the 26th district in November are Brent Finnegan (D) and Tony Wilt (R).  It should be interesting to see how they compare.

Dunaway at First Friday

Today, Rita Dunaway was the featured speaker at the First Friday gathering in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  She spoke in favor of the Convention of States project, a group which is working to convince state legislatures across the country to call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution under the provisions of Article V.  Several years ago, Ms. Dunaway spoke at First Friday on this topic.

For those who haven’t heard her speak on the subject, I recorded her speech on my phone.  However, shortly into the question and answer period I received a phone call which cut off the recording.  In addition, as the restaurant was somewhat noisy, you may need to turn up your volume in order to hear it properly.

Enjoy!

Gillespie Comes to Harrisonburg

On Tuesday, January 17th, Ed Gillespie made a campaign stop in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  To the best of my knowledge, he is the first candidate of any political party to come to the city.  He spoke in front of a rather impressive crowd of about 60 or so individuals during the mid-afternoon at the Agrodolce restaurant.

Personally, I though Mr. Gillespie gave a great speech, much improved from any of the speeches I heard him give during his run for U.S. Senate in 2014.  He spoke of the need for limiting government and, as opposed some members of the Republican Party these days, seemed to speak against crony capitalism.  Unlike many first-time candidates, although Ed Gillespie spoke about his personal story, it wasn’t the central focus of his talk.  My only real disappointment was that I wish he would have taken questions from the audience, but his campaign seemed to be in a bit of a time crunch, clearing out of the restaurant soon after the speech was over.

The biggest concern I had about the event had nothing to do with Mr. Gillespie or his campaign, who again put together a quality campaign stop on his kickoff tour, but rather some the individuals who attended.  One could label quite a few of them as establishment Republicans and, while I’ve known some of them for a decade or more, many have unfortunately proven themselves untrustworthy and, just as troubling, more desirous of accumulating power and demanding loyalty to the GOP than advancing any other political principle.  I know that some good, honest, principled people are supporting Ed Gillespie too, and there were some at the Harrisonburg event as well, but I have to say I sensed I was out of place.  Borrowing a line from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, I felt like a pilgrim in an unholy land.

But, if Ed Gillespie and his campaign can hold more events like the one in Harrisonburg today, it will likely solidify his status as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

Whatever Happened to Senator Obenshain?

Senator Obenshain at the General Assembly in 2015

About six years ago, on January 6th, 2011, I excitedly wrote an article in support of a piece of legislation proposed by my state senator, Mark Obenshain, SB 1203. This proposal would require political parties to pay for their own primaries as opposed to the taxpayers, who shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the nomination process of a private organization.  As Senator Obenshain wrote, “If a political party wants a conventional primary, fine – but they can pay for it. Our localities are burdened enough as it is. If a party cannot or will not put up that much money, they can always go with a cheaper option. Our localities can ill afford it – and under my proposal, they wouldn’t have to.”  During this same General Assembly session, Obenshain also sponsored a bill, SB 1272, to privatize the state government-run ABC liquor stores.  Although unfortunately both bills were killed in committee, I was delighted to see that they were proposed.

I had routinely supported Senator Obenshain since 2003 when I was a volunteer on his first campaign before he even got the GOP nomination.  Sure, some senators in Virginia were pretty good, but Obenshain was mine.  Were there bumps along the way?  Of course, such as when he campaigned alongside Senator Lindsey Graham in 2008, but you can’t find someone with whom you always agree.  In 2009, I strongly encouraged him to seek the GOP nod for Virginia Attorney General.  By 2011, I believed that no other Virginia legislator could hold a candle to Senator Obenshain and I proudly told folks about my senator.  I felt he was making good on his promise that “The most important goal in my life is to have some significant impact in preserving and expanding the realm of personal freedom in the life of this country”.  It was a quote that his father made before his untimely death in 1978.

However, when the General Assembly session rolled around the next year, although I didn’t realize it at the time, something had begun to change.  He didn’t advocate the bills he had in the previous session.  Instead, included in his proposed legislation in 2012 were bills that didn’t limit the size of government and expand liberty, but rather ones that had the opposite effect.  For example, there was SB 244 which was an attempt to register voters in Virginia by political party.  It didn’t make sense to me.  How are the ideals of limited government or liberty advanced by getting the state government involved in a party’s membership recruitment and retention?  Fortunately, the bill was defeated and I didn’t pay it much more thought, merely considering it an odd fluke, much like in 2009 when he crafted a bill which would have charged a woman with a crime if she didn’t report a miscarriage to the state police within 24 hours of her child’s unfortunate death.

As we all know, in 2013 Senator Obenshain won the Republican nomination for Attorney General.  I was invited to attend his campaign strategy sessions and, given that I was a board member of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia and had adventures with Libertarian Party members as well, I strongly encouraged his staff to make the message of liberty a center point for their campaign and that they should use this message to reach out to these like-minded individuals.  Unfortunately, each time I made this suggestion, I was ignored, even when I offered to personally take the lead for this endeavor.  As many will remember, Mark Obenshain ended up losing this race by 165 votes.

The following year, I began my run for Harrisonburg City Council.  As mentioned in previous pieces, I was expelled from the Harrisonburg GOP, a unit in which Senator Obenshain was a member, in February 2014, but that didn’t deter my campaign plan.  Throughout 2015 I tried repeatedly to attempt to schedule a meeting with my state senator, but his legislative aide steadfastly refused my request, declaring it to be a waste of the senator’s time.  As such, I was unable to speak with my elected representative for almost an entire year.  I should note that while I was blocked, this aide and Suzanne Obenshain, my senator’s wife, had formed a consulting firm and among their clients was one of my Republican opponents for council.  Although I didn’t expect an endorsement from my state senator, given that we were no longer members of the same party, I was deeply dismayed when, the night before the election, Senator Obenshain apparently intentionally mislead the voters of Harrisonburg by sending out an email declaring that voters should support my Republican opponents because they were the conservatives in the race.  For anyone who paid any attention to the race it was a blatant deception, especially considering one of these opponents supported higher taxes, more government regulation, and taxpayer funded subsidies.

After the election was over and his quarrelsome (and dare I say useless) aide had left his employ did I finally have an opportunity to speak with my state senator once more.  Given my own experiences getting certified, I didn’t think that it was fair that I had to collect 125 valid signatures of registered voters in order to appear on the November ballot while my Republican and Democratic opponents did not have to do likewise.  Therefore, I suggested a bill for the General Assembly which would require all candidates, regardless of political party, to meet the same filing requirements in order to achieve ballot access.  Senator Obenshain flatly refused, telling me that he only wanted Democrats and Republicans to appear on the ballot.

In the 2015 General Assembly session, Senator Obenshain proposed another bill, SB 1060, which would require voters to register with the state by a political party or be declared as independents.  This time, however, I knew it wasn’t some kind of aberration, but rather a deliberate attempt to squelch independents and the rise of third-party options.  Therefore, I fought back, writing blog pieces and speaking with Republican and Democratic legislators against it.  My primary effort during this time was centered around killing this wretched work.  In the end, I’m pleased to say that the bill was narrowly defeated by the Virginia Senate on a vote of 19-21.

2015 was a reelection year for my senator and he ended up hiring a former liberty activist and former friend who had been a harsh critic of our congressman, Bob Goodlatte, and rallied local activists against him for several years.  However, by this time, he had done a complete 180-degree turn, declaring Goodlatte to be “America’s best congressman”.  In addition, this staffer had also been arrested for beating up a woman and other offenses while intoxicated.  Unfortunately, adding this hire to the actions of Obenshain’s previous aide and his second campaign manager in his 2013 bid who had stolen materials from the campaign of Delegate Rob Bell, Obenshain’s Republican opponent, I came to the conclusion that my senator didn’t hire individuals based on their principles, ethics, or their ability to work with the public, but rather for their unquestioned loyalty (or those that could be bribed, blackmailed, or otherwise controlled).  Although I had been a strong advocate for my state senator in his previous elections and re-elections, in the 2015 cycle I found myself sitting on the sidelines.  During that time, I wrote a piece on the matter but didn’t end up posting it.

Although it was good to see a bill curbing the abuses of civil asset forfeiture, which allows the police to take and keep your property even if you are found innocent of committing a crime, I was horrified when I learned that Senator Obenshain voted against the bill in committee.  Even though it passed that particular committee, it died in the next one.

When in mid to late 2016, Senator Obenshain once again declared a seemingly nonconservative candidate to be the conservative choice for Harrisonburg City Council, I found myself very upset still an entire week later.  As a result, I wrote him a letter explaining my almost overwhelming frustration and disappointment.  In it, I added that if he ever tried to enact party registration again or otherwise erode the political freedoms of the people of Virginia, I would do whatever I could to lead the charge to defeat such a bill.

Well, a few months later, Senator Obenshain announced SB 902, his third effort to force registration by political party.  On Friday, January 6th, he spoke at the monthly First Friday gathering and I intended to ask him about the matter, but his wife was leading the meeting and my efforts were either not noticed or simply ignored.  He explained how “we” needed to keep the Virginia Senate in Republican hands due to a special election coming up in several days, but couched it in a message of fear, saying how terrible it would be if the Democrats regained control of the chamber.  It had echoes of his speech from the October 2015 First Friday gathering. Never mind the fact that the Republican Senate continually chooses Senator Tommy Norment, who is a liberal and supports big government, (he helped push through the 2013 transportation tax hike) as their majority leader each and every time they have controlled the chamber in the last two decades.

Although Senator Obenshain has been pushing for the Republican candidate in the 22nd district both at First Friday and in an email sent the day before, there are actually two special elections for the Virginia Senate on January 10th.  While some people and groups like Representative Tom Garrett (VA-5) and the Virginia Citizens Defense League have also come out in support of the Libertarian candidate in the 9th district, Obenshain has remained silent on the second race because, presumably while it is important to support candidates who share your political party, we certainly don’t want to advance the cause of liberty as much as possible because that might mean supporting a candidate of a different political affiliation.  There is a Democratic and a Libertarian candidate in this contest, no Republican ran.

As you might imagine, these last several years have been profoundly discouraging. Although my state senator declared himself a champion of liberty in the mold of his father, he acts as if he no longer cares about the idea.  These days he seems to be far more concerned with protecting and promoting Republican legislators regardless of their principles and maintaining Republican control of as much government as possible.

In response to Senator Obenshain’s party registration bill, I’ve created an online petition in opposition.  Politicians often talk of economic freedom, personal freedom, and religious freedom, but if we don’t embrace political freedom and the choices and competition that that brings, representative government becomes perverted and our representatives become our masters.  Therefore, if you oppose party registration here in Virginia, please join me by clicking on this link and showing your support by signing the petition.  Please note, any donations go to the host site and not this cause.

A month or two before her death in mid-2016, I found myself in Rockbridge County helping Suzanne Curran, the somewhat legendary political activist from Shenandoah County, pack some materials in her vehicle.  While I carried a box outside, she mentioned to me how she thought it might have been a good thing that Senator Obenshain lost his 2013 race for attorney general.  Although I found it a surprising sentiment at the time, unfortunately, it is becoming all too clear what she was saying.

Billing himself as an advocate for liberty, Senator Obenshain seems to have unfortunately morphed into a mouthpiece for the Republican establishment.  My once great pride in my state senator has been replaced by feelings of shame and regret.  Has there been a radical transformation in Senator Obenshain in the last several years or has it always been the case and I was simply deceived?

Whatever happened to Senator Obenshain?

Voting & Polling in Harrisonburg

Putting up a Gary Johnson sign last night.
Putting up a Gary Johnson sign last night.

At about 1 PM, I visited my polling place, Keister Elementary, to cast my ballot in the 2016 election.  The drive leading up to the school was blanketed with signs for the various candidates.  Outside of the building, there were people handing out both Republican and Democratic sample ballots.  The fact that the Republicans openly encouraged voters to cast their ballots for Independent City Council candidate George Hirschmann seemed to further prove that he is not, in fact, an independent, but rather a Republican who is trying to obscure his party status.  In addition, a woman stood outside conducting an exit poll, which I thought was quite exciting!  More on this issue in a moment.

I expected that there would be quite a long line inside, but was surprised that I only had to wait for a minute or two.  Apparently, traffic had been particularly heavy earlier and many people had already voted, but I just happened to be there during a lull.

Voting was actually fairly difficult this year.  I knew my vote for president, of course, but hadn’t decided upon the names for my write-ins for various offices where I either didn’t know or care much for the candidates listed.

Anyway, when I got back outside, the pollster asked for whom I cast my ballot for president and whether I had voted in the 2012 presidential election.  I told her that I voted for the same candidate in 2016 that I did in 2012.  I then asked if she could tell me the results of her poll thus far.  Although I expect that Hillary Clinton will win Harrisonburg, given that Keister is one of the most Republican precincts in the city I assumed that Donald Trump would be winning the exit poll or that it would be very close.  However, that was not the case.  Of the multitude of respondents, about 60% said they voted for Clinton, 30% were for Trump, and Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Evan McMullin, and write-ins split the remaining approximate 10%.  Yes, in this exit poll Clinton had about twice the votes that Trump had.  The pollster theorized that perhaps Trump voters were far less likely to admit that they cast their ballots for Trump, but I thought this unlikely.  What it told me is that if these numbers hold, Hillary Clinton will win Harrisonburg by a far larger margin than I anticipated and will likely perform even better in Virginia than what people say.  If she wins Virginia by a sizable factor, then it might end up being a very quick election night reminiscent of 1996 when Bill Clinton bested Bob Dole.

Yes, Keister is only one of many polling places in Harrisonburg, but the exit poll doesn’t seem to bode well for Mr. Trump and the Republicans.  It will be fun to discover if this poll is accurate or not!

MAC PAC Comes to Harrisonburg

Image from the MAC PAC Facebook page
Image from the MAC PAC Facebook page of the Harrisonburg gathering

Recently, ten or eleven political activists from across the state created a new political action committee called the Millennial Advocacy Council or MAC PAC for short.  As a way to introduce themselves to Virginians, they have been holding gatherings around the Commonwealth.  As the group includes several of my Facebook friends, when they came to Harrisonburg on their third stop on their tour last night, I decided to check out what they had to say.

About a dozen people attended the meeting at Capital Ale House in downtown Harrisonburg including: several leaders of MAC PAC, some local college activists, and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25).  At the beginning, the leaders of MAC PAC introduced the leaders of their group.  As far as I could tell, each either worked for an elected official, another PAC, the Republican Party, or was a leader of a Republican group.  This information sparked a concern in my mind that the PAC might be little more than a front group for the Republican Party.  However, next they began discussing their principles, focusing upon a number of issues facing millennials, such as dealing with student debt, the future of social security, increasing home ownership, and the like.  These matters sounded pretty good, so that was a positive development.  But, then they explained that only millennials could hold any position of leadership in their group.  Although the term millennial has been defined in a variety of ways, MAC PAC labels it as a person born between 1982-2000.  Given that I was born about 17 months before this range, it is disappointing to learn that I could have no real part in this group, other than donating to them, simply based upon date of birth.  For someone who grew up watching Nick At Nite, to quote Maxwell Smart, I “missed by that much.”

The MAC PAC folks followed up by taking some questions from the group.  I tried to express my concern about the PAC advocating for a political party instead of for a certain set of principles though I was assured this was not the case.  Nevertheless, a bit later in the night one of the leaders of MAC PAC encouraged the attendees to invite their friends to become members of their local Republican Party units.  Given the various loyalty oaths and restrictions required for participation in many Republican Party functions, this call to join the GOP seemed like MAC PAC had abandoned at pretenses of being a nonpartisan organization and was simply establishing itself as another wing of the Republican Party.  Although that might very well be what some people are looking for, I have no interest in being a cog in the Republican machine or getting the largest possible piece of the Republican pie.  Therefore, I excused myself and departed before the gathering had concluded.

As you might imagine, I left the meeting feeling rather disappointed.  I suppose that if you fit the MAC PAC definition of a millennial and are also wed to the Republican Party then the organization might be a good fit for you.  However, as I don’t seem to fall into either of these two categories, it doesn’t seem like a group that speaks either to me or for me.  Oh well.

Writing-In Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.
Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.

In general, the November 3rd elections in the city of Harrisonburg were a rather dull affair.  Although citizens had the opportunity to vote for six different contests, only one office, state senator, was contested.  As you might expect, this lack of choices inspired a handful of folks to write-in candidates.  Fellow blogger Rick Sincere often pens an article about the write-in votes in Charlottesville, but what names do people write-in in Harrisonburg?  Well, I decided to visit the local registrar’s office to find out.

In case you are wondering, once the election results have been certified they are made available to the public.  Unfortunately, they aren’t listed on a nice, neat, printed sheet, but rather each write-in vote is printed on a long piece of narrow paper, which resembles a register receipt.  Having previously worked as an election official in Rockingham County, I know that some voters write-in made up or fictitious characters, like Mickey Mouse or “anyone else”, but how many real people could be identified?  For the record, I only went through the data once, so it is possible the numbers I list below aren’t quite right.  Nevertheless, if you live in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, I think you’ll find them of interest.

In the race for the 26th Virginia Senate seat, there were only 14 write-in votes in Harrisonburg, likely low because voters had at least two choices.  April Moore, the Democratic candidate, won Harrisonburg and Republican Mark Obenshain got second.  However, there was a three-way tie for third place between Christopher Runion, Lowell Fulk, and yours truly as we each had two write-ins.

Moving on to the 26th House of Delegates seat where Republican Tony Wilt ran unopposed, there were almost 11% write-ins, the highest for any of the seats in play.  Harrisonburg City Council member Kai Degner took second with 19 votes, followed by Rockingham County School member Lowell Fulk with 14 votes.  Both Degner and Fulk had each previously been the Democratic nominee for this office in earlier elections.  Other write-ins of note included:  Harvey Yoder with three votes, my partner on the radio Andy Schmookler with two votes, local political activist Dale Fulk with two votes, and Harrisonburg Democratic Party Chair Deb Fitzgerald also with two. Many people received one write-in vote including: former Harrisonburg City Council members Dorn Peterson and George Pace, Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, Harrisonburg Mayor Chris Jones, the Virginia Libertarian Party Vice-chairman Dr. James Lark III, State Senator Creigh Deeds from Bath County, former Harrisonburg Republican Party Chairman John Elledge, the 2015 Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate April Moore, 2014 city council candidates Alleyn Harned and Joshua Huffman, and several of my Facebook friends such as: Jeremy Aldrich, Shammara Blanchard, and Matthew Phillippi.

Finishing in second in the race for sheriff with seven write-in votes was Harvey Yoder.  Third was former sheriff candidate Kurt Boshart with five and fourth was Chris Monahan with three.  Other names with one or more votes include: Kai Degner, Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, local TV anchor Bob Corso, former sheriff Glenn Weatherholtz, 6th District Democratic Party Chair Joe Fitzgerald, former sheriff candidate CM Hess, City Council member Richard Baugh, Greg Nesselrodt (one of my good friends in high school), and again one vote for me.  I’m not quite sure why someone would think me as being qualified for sheriff, but that is another issue.

For Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court, Renee Evans Haywood captured nine write-ins.  Other names of note included: Kai Denger, Dale Fulk, former treasurer candidate Penny Imeson, former council member Charlie Chenault, school board member Andy Kohen, local TV producer Channing Frampton, Joe Fitzgerald, Chris Jones, Lowell Fulk, a previous clerk candidate Diane Fulk, local political activist Dave Briggman, former HHS classmate W.O. Brown III, and a vote for me.  I assure you that someone wrote me in, but I didn’t do it.

Moving on to Harrisonburg/Rockingham Commonwealth Attorney, many people tied for second with two votes: Dale Fulk, Tricia Nesselrodt, John Elledge, and former House of Delegates candidate Gene Hart.  Other names with a vote include: Lowell Fulk, Andy Kohen, radio personality Karl Magenhoffer, attorney Bob Keefer, attorney Roland Santos, high school friend Edward Panchari, and me, Joshua Huffman.

In the special election for Harrisonburg School Board to replace Dany Fleming, Mr. Fleming captured the most write-in votes with ten.  Other candidates of interest with one or more votes include: Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, Steve Nesselrodt, Tricia Nesselrodt, Mark Finks, former school board member Tom Mendez, Erin Phillippi, Matt Phillippi, Charlie Chenault, Violet Allain (who hosted a city council meet-and-greet for the candidates at her house last year), Channing Frampton, and another vote for me.

Lastly, there weren’t too many write-in votes for Soil & Water Conservation Director.  Dale Fulk had two, radio personality Jim Britt had one, several of my friends had one such as Tristan Flage, Joe Rudmin, and Matt Phillippi, and, again, one person decided to write my name in for this office.

Although some write-in votes are nonsensical or vulgar, for others write-ins are a way to show dissatisfaction with the possible choices, or in the case of the 2015 elections in Harrisonburg, the lack of choices.  And, to the handful of people who decided to write me in, I certainly appreciate your vote, but I’m not running for anything right now.  I hope I can earn your support when and if the time comes again.

Yes, writing-in might be annoying for those election officials counting the ballots, but it can be a fascinating insight into the minds of the disaffected voter.  Hopefully the citizens of Harrisonburg will have at least two choices for every elected office in 2016, in which case we should see a dip in write-in votes in the next election.

Scenes From the Polls 2015

In the grand scheme of things, there were no great upheavals in Virginia’s 2015 elections.  Although both Republicans and Democrats hoped to make gains in the Virginia Senate, at the end of the day the Republicans maintained their 21-19 majority over the Democrats.  Here in Harrisonburg all of yesterday’s races were uncontested, save for a senate race in a heavily Republican district.

This year, instead of campaigning for a candidate or a cause, throughout the day I stopped by a handful of polling places in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to take photos of the candidates and activists working at the polls.  My goal was to capture as many of the candidates as possible.  Although I had the itinerary for several of them, most were either elsewhere or didn’t both to work the polls as they had no opponent.

Here are the photos in chronological order:

Virginia Free in Harrisonburg

IMG_3012On Thursday morning, the political group Virginia Free hosted an event on the campus of James Madison University.  It was a panel presentation featuring JMU professor (and former Delegate) Pete Giesen, Delegate Steve Landes, and Levar Stoney from Governor McAuliffe’s administration. For about an hour, the three individuals, along with Virginia Free Executive Director (and former Delegate) Chris Saxman spoke on a variety of issues, including a sizable segment about the Virginia government.

Afterward, they fielded questions from the audience; during this time, both Angela Lynn, the Democratic challenger of Steve Landes, and April Moore, the Democratic candidate in the 26th Senate district, spoke briefly.  Delegate Tony Wilt was also present, but as an observer.

Angela Lynn and April Moore
Angela Lynn and April Moore

At one point, one member of the audience declared that he was offended that the speakers sometimes used the phrase “Democrat Party” as opposed to “Democratic Party” declaring the first term to be pejorative although he did not really explain why he thought so.  Later, when one of the panel members said Democrat Party again, the observer interrupted with his same objection.  In addition, quite a few people in the audience spoke about Medicaid expansion in the state and were upset with Delegate Landes’ opposition to doing so.

In addition, Virginia Free offered attendees a scorecard ranking the General Assembly members according to their pro-business stance.  I found it rather curious that they declared Senator Water Stosch to be the best member of the Virginia Senate alongside Senators Frank Wagner, John Watkins, Frank Ruff, and Tommy Norment while declaring that Senators Reeves, Black, and Garrett were among the worst and that Senator Chap Petersen was the absolute poorest member of that body.  On the House of Delegates side, they gave high marks to Speaker Bill Howell and Delegate Ed Scott while also ranking Delegates Mark Berg, Charniele Herring, and Bob Marshall unfavorably.  Wanting to learn more, I asked Mr. Saxman about the ratings, especially the 2013 ranking and he explained that everyone who voted in favor of Governor McDonnell’s transportation tax increase was given a score of 100%, while those who opposed it were rated as 0%.  Their stance on that one issue and how they chose to rank the various legislators likely tells you everything you need to know about where Virginia Free and where they stand on the issues of taxes, government spending, and the proper role of government.

Although I certainly appreciated the presentation, based upon what I learned, I am concerned that Virginia Free and I might have a fundamentally different opinion on what the term “pro-business” means and who the best and worst members of the General Assembly are.

AFP Powers Up Harrisonburg

puvaOn Saturday, June 13th, Americans for Prosperity will be coming to Harrisonburg, VA as part of their statewide tour to fight back against the unconstitutional expansion of the EPA.  As they say, “Americans for Prosperity is standing strong against big government overreach. We’re ready to push back against the EPA’s negative impact to Virginia’s economy, energy resources, and property rights.”

This event will take place in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn right off interstate exit 247 on I-81, 1400 East Market Street from 4 PM to 6 PM.

Featured speakers include:  Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge County, Senator Obenshain of Rockingham County, and farming rights advocate Martha Boneta of Fauquier County.

The event is free and you can sign up at the following link.

If you have any questions or for additional info, please contact AFP regional director Flint Engleman at (540) 226-4591 or at flint@AFPVirginia.com